Feb. 21, 2004
EAST MEADOW, N.Y. – The University of Notre Dame men’s swimming and diving team scored more points than it ever had before in the BIG EAST Championships, finishing in second place Saturday night in the Nassau County Aquatic Center. The Irish ended the meet with 584 points, which was 121.5 more than a year ago and 19 better than their previous high mark, set in a runner-up finish in 1999. For leading a team that set eight school records in the conference meet and moved up from a fourth-place finish a year ago, Tim Welsh was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
Pittsburgh won its eighth consecutive conference title with 746 points for a 162-point victory, which included a 116-point advantage over the Irish in diving events, due in large part to the fact that the Panthers have seven divers, while Notre Dame sports just one.
The highlight of the final session for the Irish was the 200-yard backstroke, in which a pair of sophomores, Doug Bauman (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Preparatory School) and Steve Shomberger (Spotsylvania, Pa./Courtland H.S.), both broke the University record. Bauman finished second in 1:48.44, while Shomberger was fourth in 1:48.66. Prior to this year, no Notre Dame swimmer had ever finished in the top six in this event in the BIG EAST meet.
Bauman first broke the school record in the event in this season’s Notre Dame Invitational, but Shomberger shaved .01 seconds off that time in the morning session on Saturday to claim the record for a few hours.
Sophomore Patrick Davis (Clearwater, Fla./Jesuit H.S.) provided the other top performance of the final session for the Irish. He finished second to four-time champion Eric Limkemann of Pittsburgh in the 1650 freestyle with a time of 15:34.41. That mark established him as the second-fastest Irish miler in school history, behind only school recordholder Jonathan Pierce (’02). Both Davis’ 1650 time and his 1000-yard split time rank as the third-fastest in the history of the Irish program, behind only swims by Pierce in the 2000 and ’02 BIG EAST meets.
Sophomore Tyler Grenda (Hockessin, Del./Salesianum H.S.) delivered a career-best time in finishing fifth in the 200 breaststroke in 2:02.58.
Notre Dame’s senior co-captains each went out with memorable performances. Matt Obringer (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School) matched his career-best time in the 100 free in taking second in the consolation final. Josh Dermott (El Dorado Hills, Calif./Rio Americano H.S.) cut 1.39 seconds off his previous career-best mark in winning the consolation final of the 200 breaststroke by more than a second, in 2:02.96. His evening time was more than two seconds faster than his performance in prelims.
Both Obringer and Dermott end their careers ranking among the top five swimmers of all time in each of their three main individual events. Dermott, who posted career highs in all three races in this year’s BIG EAST meet, is fourth in the 100 breast (56.43) and fifth in the 200 breast and 200 IM (1:51.13), while Obringer is the second-fastest 200 free swimmer in Irish history (1:38.49) and ranks third in the 500 (4:27.57) and fourth in the 100.
A total of five Irish swimmers scored in the 1650. Freshman Ted Brown (Kokomo, Ind./Western H.S.), who set a University record in the 500 free on Thursday, came in 10th in a season-best time of 15:53.17, while his classmate, Justin Barber (Carson City, Nev./Carson H.S.), was 13th in 15:59.50, cutting more than 16 seconds off his previous best. Another rookie, Chris Zeches (Tucson, Ariz./Salpointe Catholic H.S.), took 15th with a time of 16:07.78, while junior Matt Bertke (Edgewood, Ky./Covington Catholic H.S.) was 16th in 16:09.78.
Though freshman Tim Kegelman (Yorktown, Va./Tabb H.S.) did not set the University record in the 200 fly, as he did in his first two individual events of the meet (200 IM and 100 fly), he did become just the third swimmer (along with Ryan Verlin and Scott Zumbach) in Notre Dame history to break the 1:50.00 mark in the event. His time of 1:49.44 was good enough for a three-second victory in the consolation final and would have placed him third in the championship final.
Sophomore Patrick Heffernan (Norcross, Ga./Norcross H.S.) finished 11th in the 200 fly in 1:52.46, while his classmate, Patrick O’Berry (Alpharetta, Ga./Milton H.S.) was right behind in 1:52.52. Senior Brian Coughlan (Moraga, Calif./Campolindo H.S.) finished 16th with a time of 1:55.18.
Freshmen Alan Carter (Bethel Park, Pa./Bethel Park H.S.) and Brian Freeman (Sanger, Calif./Immanuel H.S.) finished 10th and 11th, respectively, in the 200 back. Carter posted a time of 1:51.07, while Freeman outtouched Stephen Jensen of Virginia Tech by .03 seconds, finishing in 1:51.24.
Junior Frank Krakowski (Erie, Pa./Cathedral Preparatory School) was 13th in the 100 free, while his classmate, Drew Pittman (Williamsburg, Va./Lafayette H.S.), tied for 14th in 46.21 after winning a swim-off in the morning to earn the last spot in the consolation final.
One day after becoming the first Irish student-athlete to win a BIG EAST title since 2000 (in the 400 IM), sophomore Jamie Lutkus (Granger, Ind./Penn H.S.) finished 13th in the 200 breast with a time of 2:05.79.
Needing a ninth-place finish or better in the final event, the 400 free relay, to clinch the team runner-up finish ahead of Virginia Tech, Notre Dame succeeded. The quartet of Pittman, Krakowski, freshman Louis Cavadini (South Bend, Ind./Riley H.S.), and Obringer finished sixth with a time of 3:02.43.
Notre Dame’s season is not over, as freshman Scott Coyle (Indianapolis, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern H.S.) will take part in the NCAA Zone C Diving meet March 12-13 in Bloomington, Ind. Three Irish swimmers – Obringer (200 free), Kegelman (200 IM, 100 fly), and Brown (500 free) – posted NCAA “B” times in the BIG EAST meet, which means they will be considered for berths in next month’s NCAA Championships. The field for that meet, which is slated for March 25-27 in the same venue as the BIG EAST meet, will be announced in two weeks.